It is perhaps fitting that the latest Tory assault on the poor is announced by an individual that embodies the elite in a place that screams privilege. The Queen's Speech may feel very silly, being preposterously pompous and agonisingly archaic, but the message emanating from the government behind the speech could not have been more serious. The Conservatives are now off what was a very long leash to start with and have wasted no time in declaring war on welfare, equality and freedom.
Everything about this government is warped to almost Orwellian levels. Their 'long-term economic plan' is storing up societal disaster set to explode over the next few years as more and more children slip into poverty and the services that might help them are ruthlessly slashed. Their 'balancing of the books' is catapulting us into a deeply divided and unequal society, tilting the scales of fortune even further in favour of the rich. Their attempts to 'make work pay' are presiding over stagnating wages and a downward spiral of negative welfare rhetoric and declining living standards for those on benefits. 'Bringing the nations finances under control' apparently doesn't involve actually controlling the financial sector, the only people being made to 'live within their means' are those without the means to get by and the only place the Tories are 'helping people to get on' to is the grave.
The word 'socialist' is a dirty word amongst many of the British public, but not because its ideas have been proven malicious or undesirable, but because of the narrative of 'no alternatives'. We have been spoon-fed the message that the poor must suffer and the rich must prosper, that our deity of an economy demands the sacrifice of the disabled, the young and oppressed in order to keep the earth spinning, that things cannot be done any other way. Those of us that understand that an economy is simply human beings interacting, and that if it isn't working for everyone it isn't working at all have a profound responsibility. As a fellow Young Green once said to me: "once you learn some things, you just can't go back, you can't unlearn or ignore them- you feel compelled to do something".
With their menagerie of millionaire backers and a plethora of press pundits on their side, it is clear how the Tories have managed to make their message seep into the British psyche enough to secure 5 years of unfettered butchery of the state. The Left cannot hope to match them at this game: it is clear we are now outmatched and outgunned at traditional electoral politics. Our ways of seeking progress shouldn't abandon this process, but rather expand and build upon it.
We have had a monstrous coalition and a spineless Opposition in Parliament, so it is time we formed our own. It is not just the decimated Lib Dems and Labourites that have some serious soul searching to do, but all of us that wish to see an end to neoliberalism and all its attendant inequities. The Left is infamous for its infighting and fracturing, but we cannot afford to live up to the stereotype anymore. This means that we should not expect the country to magically transform into our exact idea of utopia. We must all be prepared to be wrong about some things, to set aside smaller rivalries and disputes and to even hold our noses and work with some we consider unpalatable. To succeed in defeating the narrative of austerity we must form a broad coalition of currently disparate interest groups, because all of them are deeply united in cause. Be it a children's poverty charity, a feminist society, a small left wing political party or an environmentalist group we are all fighting the same problem: we are all intimately entwined in the battle against the consolidation of power and wealth of a handful at the top. Not only can this serve to unite us, but it can form the core of our counter narrative against Tory logic, the narrative Labour did not have the skill or the courage to tell. Until we all realise this and start to mobilise together, there will be no let up from austerity.
We must realise, too, that power has many residences, not just Westminster. We must open up local meetings that have become mere echo chambers to those that disagree, and begin a process of networking with other groups with the aim to do rather than just say: we cannot afford to rest on our laurels until the 2020 short campaign. We must look for ingenious and engaging solutions to local problems that involve local residents leading the way, fixing problems ourselves that our government refuses to help with. We must stage radical and unique demonstrations that give space for expression and education: forum theatre and participatory art projects that are rooted in local communities are great examples of this. Throughout all of this we must not focus on the macro and the abstract, but tell a story that is personal and relatable. What does inequality, patriarchy or climate change mean for you and your neighbour?
This Parliament must be the Left's Bildungsroman, its coming of age, its transformation once more into a powerful and compelling political force: the human and environmental devastation that awaits should we fail is simply too high a price to pay. The popular phrase of the 1960's French student movements "be realistic, demand the impossible" sums up succinctly the challenge before us. To save people and planet we must convince the electorate that things they have consistently been told are not plausible are not only possible but absolutely necessary if we are to survive. We must tell an engaging and relatable narrative, one that tells the story of a broken system and a greedy elite but one that also sows the seeds for revival right into the hearts of local communities. This can be done only as a strong and broad left wing force, not a fractured and bickering one, one that radically realigns the balance of political power away from Westminster and the elite that infest it.